A Conservative member of the Senedd has expressed “puzzlement” about a question on abolishing the Senedd being asked during a candidate selection process.
Potential candidates for the South Wales Central list were asked how they would vote in a referendum to abolish the Welsh Parliament, and David Melding, who represents the region for the party, queried why it was the “only direct policy question” asked.
Mr Melding, who is stepping down at the next Senedd election, warned his party against an “ultra sceptical tilt towards devolution” and said that if was diched it would be the end of the UK.
He also spoke of his “surprise” after Jonathan Morgan, who has previously represented the party in Cardiff Bay and is currently an advisor to party leader Paul Davies, was not shortlisted during the process to select his successor. He asked his party to provide an assurance that the “outcome was the result of a fair and regular process”.
It is understood that Mr Morgan answered that he would vote to keep the Senedd if there was a referendum on abolishing it.
According to the latest Welsh political barometer opinion poll 71 per cent of people who intend to vote Conservative in the constituency vote and 67 per cent who said they would vote for the party on the regional list would support scrapping the Senedd if there was a referendum.
Mr Melding said: “As a retiring MS I took no part in the sifting process to select my potential successor. However, I was surprised that someone of Jonathan Morgan’s stature and record in public life will not ne one of the applicants put to party members in South Wales Central.
“And there was more puzzlement. The only direct policy question was how applicants would vote in a referendum to abolish the Senedd?
“This constitutional option is not Party policy and I do not believe that such a question would have been sanctioned by the WPC (Welsh Conservative Party).
“I fear that some in the Party think that the Abolish the Assembly Party’s fox can be shot by such an ultra sceptical tilt towards devolution.
“I understand the reserve that many party members have on the question of devolution, particularly as they view the situation is Scotland. But the simple reality is now no devolution no UK.
“To be meaningful, unionism must stand prior to other political preferences however strongly held. Otherwise unionism is vapid.
“A great part of state flourishes when seen as an inclusive broad church. It is this need to demonstrate itself as a Party with a rich range of opinion that gave me an opportunity to serve as a Conservative politician. It would be a sad reflection as I leave the scene if this value is diminishing.
“I cannot pass judgement on what happened in the SWC sift. And I know that there are many others in the Party who would make a valuable contribution to public life given the opportunity.
“Nevertheless it is now surely necessary for the WCP to assure members that this outcome was the result of a fair and regular process.”
Richard John, who is a Conservative councillor in Monmouthshire, said: “Really sorry to see this. Jonathan is one of the most talented Assembly Members we’ve ever had. Anyone without an agenda would agree he has earned a place on the ballot paper.”
Jonathan Morgan told the BBC: “Having served for 12 years as a high profile AM and shadow minister I thought I had demonstrated the ability to get the job done.
“In the past nine years I’ve worked with a range of public services, I now chair a major housing association and advise the leader in the Senedd.
“We need people with experience of life outside politics as well as those with a track record.”